tv [untitled] April 4, 2012 8:30am-9:00am EDT
again, john quincy adams was mentioned. that's the spine of american history. and i want to suggest, just because i wanted to -- my talk today is going to be about the constitution. that's what i do, that's where i live and move and have my being as intellectually as in the constitution, and i wanted to basically give you one kind of memorable way to to pull together the basic theme of my talk. i want to suggest that our constitution is in its basic structure far more jackson, andrew jackson-like, than we've been taught. i'll tell you at the end of today, three ways to sort of remember that it's all about jackson and for all of you, but in a nutshell our constitution is more small "d" democratic,
more open to men that are born in lower strata of society, small "d" democratic than the standard story that many of us were taught, a story in the 20th century is associated with a charles beard whose work was mention mentioned actually in several earlier today. more democratic talking, andrew jackson was basically the leader of the so-called capital "d" democratic party. our constitution is also -- we've already heard a lot about this today -- more slave-ocratic, more pro-slavery than we've been taught. andrew jackson was much less apologetic, much more openly pro-slavery than the apologetic
slave holders we've heard about, george washington, thomas jefferson. our constitution deep structure, despite maybe the best instreakses of the framers, more slave-ocratic, it's in the dna than we've been taught. and our constitution is much more about national security, about being able to beat the british, for example. vic at the age of 6 understood. he isn't up there on mt. rush more because they burned the capitol on his watch and that's not such a good thing. our constitution, general jackson, like general washington, knows how to beat the british and so manifest destiny, the monroe doctrine, isolationist america, these are all captured by andrew jackson.
they're epitomized by him, exemplified by him and that's the deep structure of the original constitution. more democratic, more slave-ocratic, more about national security and hemisphere isolationism. it unsurprisingly gives us it shall the constitution -- the dominant figure and peter onuf said this and i think several others have and i want you to hear it clearly, and that constitution failed. we call that failure the civil war and it failed because of the pro-slavery elements and it's a challenge. our republic could fail still and to understand how theirs did and what the challenges are, even their vision of national
security may not make sense for your world. at lunch talk about your world is very different than theirs and on national security i want to suggest, too, we need to rethink because our constitution of jackson and our world is not jackson. mr. lincoln fixed the second thing, the pro-slavery element, we still need to rethink the third, that challenge of your generation that's all summed up with this idea of a jacksonian constitution. so let me say at least a few interesting things. as you heard before perhaps -- i think from paul the most -- before gordon wood comes along, the most influential book after the federalist proved this is by
charles beard and that's the dominant paradigm, the dissertation and beard presents the constitution as largely sort of a pro-property instrument by the money men. it's almost a cue day tau, going beyond their express instructions as they're pulling a fast one on the rest of us. that's the kind of speared of beard's critique that the constitution is basically designed for the property -- of the property, by the property, for the property. and whether you know it or not,
a student of charles beard to some extent he influenced the people who wrote the textbooks you studied in high school and college unless you were lucky enough to just get someone who understood gordon wood's interpretation and not just gordon woods but douglas adair and others who began to reorient us away from that beardian thesis. i'm here to say actual ly it's even -- beard was even wronger than wood suggested in this first book and later the radicalism of the american revolution gets it right. our constitution was a radically democratic document for its time. beard gets it absolutely wrong. he must be really gifted because he manages to get you to forget the elephant in the room which is they've put the thing to a
vote up and down the continent and they won. in state after state after state. they lost in a couple of places. they lost in new hampshire -- in north carolina. they lost in rhode island and in new york. it is a very near thing, a very close thing, 30-27. and it's not just that one year. they keep voting for the people who gave them the constitution, george washington and james madison and others. many of philadelphia and more. and more. there's remarkable free speech in the series of elections up and down the continent and you can be against the thing and you are not basically cast out.
let me contrast it to 177. 1776 here are your choices if you're fiercely opposed to american independence. if you're a loyalist. here are your choices. one, leave. two, shut the hell up. that's it if you don't want to be tarred and feathered. this is not a joke. what did we hear from david hackett fischer? 60,000 troops all told, a massive projection of military force. when they get here they're going to slit your throat and your wife's throat and your daughter's throat and your son's throat and your mom's throat. this is not a joke. no one who opposes the american revolution fiercely goes on to any position of public authority. the most prominent person i've been able to come up with is phillip barton key.
flash forward the constitution. you can be fiercely opposed to the constitution and become president of the united states. you saw a picture of him. that's james monroe. vice president of the united states, george clinton. justice on the supreme court. samuel chase. it's pretty extraordinary. you can be for it. you can be against it. remarkable free speech and beard makes you forget that. beard makes you forget all the elections. beard is the only with one who knew it for a very long time. i asked ed morgan did you know the fact? that's kind of interesting. in 8 of the 13 states property qualifications were actually eliminated or lowered in the special election on the constitution. more people were allowed to vote on the constitution than had ever been allowed to vote on anything else. in new york, for example, here are the rules. all adult free male citizens
could vote for the constitution. the property quaul fications, the disqualifications, the race qualifications and rosie with would remind you that, yes, there is a gender qualification. that's not so much new. that's old. that's just always been. in 8 of the 13 states more people got to vote or voted for in the special convention. the special conventions were allowed to vote for anything else in the history of america before. in short we, the people, do ordain and establish this constitution. ordainment is a deed, a doing, constituting. and what is done is nothing less -- there's the big first claim -- than the most democratic deed in the history of planet earth up to that point. it is the hinge of modern human
history. that one year in which for the first time an entire continent, up and down a whole darned continent people got to vote on how they and their posterity were to be governed. more people were allowed to participate than anything else before and to speak freely. that's what beard gets you. and the world will never be the same. if you look back 1786, let's say. you look back to the previous millennia of recorded history, which ones existed existed in tiny little city states where people met face-to-face. they worship the same god, they spoke the same language, they had the same climate, the warm weather and cold weather people have never gotten together democratically. you want to pull together different time zones, different climactic zones, different religions and races and nationalities and languages, that's an empire.
you need an emperor and a standing army to pull the roman world together and, by the way, two religions, catholics and protestants, that's plenty enough to kill each other for a century and america has more than that. it's got quakers. it's got a baptist and episcopalians and catholics so plenty enough to slaughter each other over if you want to do that sort of thing. so looking backwards, very few democracies, tiny little city states and even if they have democratic constitutions, ways of life, even if they have written documents, never a constitutional -- a democratic constitution making process. one man create inging a pipelin god or something is the law, handing down the law. they're not putting their constitutions to a popular vote in athens or rome or florence or anywhere else in the world.
before 1776, the brits, they claim that they have some kind of constitution and it does have some democratic elements created by tradition, a house of commons, jury trial, but they never have a democratic constitution making process. before 1776, that had never been done. the declaration isn't put to a popular vote. there isn't time. we're in a war. the shooting has already started. that's what david mccullough's magnificent book is all about. we're already at war. we don't have that kind of thing. in 1777-'78 we do. this is the year and it builds on some is dress rehearsal for so they seem in retrospect, early efforts to do this sort of thing at the state level, massachusetts actually adopts a constitution democratically in 1780 and david mccullough wants you to know john adams was the
draftsperson there and new hampshire follows in 1784. but now on a continental scale and my claim is the world is never the same. it almost failed. the civil war, lincoln comes along and you heard about that. now, just so we're clear, hatch the world is democratic. very few democracies for the previous millennium in recorded history, we do this thing up and down the continent and we manage to actually survive an effort by one group to set aside by force of arms a proper election, the civil war. you can't have government by and for the people if the people lose a fair election fair and square, actually try to undo it by force of arms and try to shut down free speech which they tried to do. it is a crime to be anti-slavery in the deep south in the 1850s.
it's a crime, a capital offense, to criticize slavery in the 1850s. abraham lincoln's name doesn't get put on the ballot south of virginia and he gets zero popular votes. not electoral but popular votes out of virginia. so democracy was under assault because there's also the slave-ocratic principle i will tell you about. the civil war proved that we could actually make democracy work and it does end slavery and the world will never be the same. look at many more democracies at the beginning of the 20th century and then you look at the end of the 20th century, we won that century. we won it big time. i like our prospects for the future. the world is becoming american in this very deep way. big claim. it is way more democratic than we were taught by charles beard and his disciples. nothing less than a hinge of human history. it's the big thing we are still feeling the reverberations of
that. just to give you an example of the reverberations, you bring all these people in these state conventions, what's the first thing when you bring people together? they can talk amongst themselves and they actually say, listen, version 1.0 is really -- where are the bill of rights? the thing called the bill of rights that comes out of this year of actually asking people what they think. the phrase that appears more than anything is we the people. where does that come from? from the actual practice of free speech actually existed in this year that people get to talk which they couldn't do in 1776 because we were in the middle of a war. way more democratic, the hinge of human history. to get the people to say yes, this isn't one person, one vote, one time, something like that. they have to actually put, the
framers do, all sorts of democratic sweeteners in the constitution to get people to vote for the thing, otherwise they're not going to vote for it. what are the property qualifications to be a member of the house of representatives? correct. none. what are the qualifications to be a senator according to the constitution? none. you can be a u.s. senator and not even be eligible to vote in your home state. we -- this is a point -- what are the qualifications to be president? every state has basically -- virtually every state qualifications to vote for or be governor but not in the constitution. no religious qualifications to be a federal officer. indeed a ban on religious testses in article 6. no state in its tunings has a ban on religious tests.
open to everyone. in order to be a member of the so-called house of commons at the time, you have to own or rent real property, to have a seat in england. you have to open or rent real property generating 600 pounds sterling. not worth but generating annual income 600 pounds sterling which is roughly the equivalent of bingely's estate or darcy's pemberley or something like that. you can just be a schoolteacher, a minister held in high regard and you can be a senator of the united states, president of the united states. we have low born people who are presidents of the united states. we have one now. we had one in abe lincoln, in jackson, low born. maybe not only in america but it's very distinctive. two of the four guys up on mt. rush more not members of any formal church at the time of their ascension to the
presidency. pretty striking stuff. the rest of the world even today is up to. gordon wood would want me to remind you of one other thing. you mate be annoyed the people in congress take your money and don't pay themselves, don't help the rest of us so much. don't resent congressional salaries. the remarkable democratic future that we pay our lawmakers because if we don't the only people who can serve are aristocrats. to make public service open to low-born folks who aren't independently wealthy, england doesn't do that until 1911. we're that far ahead of the world. now where are all these democratic ideas coming from? i don't think these guys at philadelphia are geniuses. they're lawyers and i know a lot of lawyers, very few of them are geniuses. lawyers copy what has worked before. on issue after issue after issue
they actually borrow from best state practices. how should we launch? massachusetts and north carolina put it to a popular vote. that's a good idea. should we have a census, very democratic idea. should we have direct election? all of the states have direct election. represent the articles of confederation didn't. that's a big democratic reform. should we pay people? yes, pennsylvania does and that's actually a good system. how should we structure our executive, well, massachusetts has the best model and so let's sort of copy that one and add to it. if you read gordon's first book, creation of the american public, it's how the federal constitution is a reaction to the first and second is round of the state making in 1776. more democratic than you thought. that's the good news.
we the people. do establish this constitution for the united states of america. alas more slave-ocratic. they get one thing wrong, it's not so little a thing. three-fifths means this -- what does it mean? what should it have been? slaves are counted for three-50s of purposes. that's wrong, right? everyone should count for one, right? should be five-fifths, right? no, should be zero-fifths. no state should ever get extra credit for having extra slaves. the question isn't whether slaves are voting. of course they aren't voting and married women aren't voting. rosemarie gave you a story about unmarried widows, but they can't vote easily because there's no secret ballot. if your husband and the laws can
beat you up afterwards, you're not voting your own interests will. it was unmarried women. the question isn't how much clout slaves are going to have but how much clout slave states will have. three-fifths you get more voting clout in the house of representatives and that's the constitution. not in the house of representatives. where else could you get credit? the electoral college. yes, they didn't believe in democracy and thought republics were different. baloney. i gave you arguments that it they were far more democratic than we've been taught and they believe in direct election of governors and direct election of the members of the house of representatives there is a balance between big and small zats. the big state guy always wins.
we have three small state presidents, bill clinton, zachary taylor and franklin pierce. that's it. virginia is the biggest state and for 32 of the first 36 years it's virginian and massachusetts is the second or third biggest state depending on how you count anded adamses. they dominate. it's not big state, small state. it's house versus senate. it's slavery, stupid, as james carville would say. that's what it's most about. before you have political parties to know if you're from massachusetts who is good from virginia and vice versa but once we have political parties merge, you can vote, even retrospective whether you like the incumbent, whether he's done anything good and you know enough to vote on
that rhett respectively. this is almost the death of us. why did they get this one number down? they didn't have any track record among the states. none of the slave states had census formula so they didn't know. they just plucked a number out of a hat, plucked a number used for tax purposes and had representation in the house and the electoral college where it didn't fit. turned out to be a huge benefit for the southern states. you heard about thomas jefferson, you heard about adams. who won the election of 1800-1801? you all say thomas jefferson, of course. take away the three-fifths, there are two elections of southerner against northerner, jefferson against adams and adams wins the first and then ohio flips. flips pennsylvania.
the swing state at the time is new york which is a slave state at the time. but it flips but without a pro-slavery bias of the extra three-fifths, john adams wins even in 1800. he knows that and all the federalists know that. the constitution is amended but not that one. the 12th amendment makes it safe for a populous presidency. jefferson and madison, in principle they are opposed to slavery but once they understand their bread is buttered on the southern side party, their founding has its base in slavery, you don't hear so much about anti-slavery from those guys. and even great northerners like john quincy adams, he doesn't say that much against slavery. afterwards he does. there's no openly anti-slavery
presence before 1860. your simple test, someone gets up, slavery is wrong, you should eventually get rid of it. there's no anti-slavery cabinet officer before 1860. all american history. slavery is wrong, we should eventually get rid of it. andrew jackson, john c. calhoun from my college. residential college named after him. it is pro-slavery. the democratic party more and more pro-slavery and ruthlessly so and aggressively so. it's a cancer that grows and grows and grows and that's called the civil war. we were lucky not smart. and sometimes it's better to be lucky than smart.
bismarck said providence in its infinite wisdom, god has a special place in his heart for fools, drunk ardz in the united states of america. so more democratic than you were taught, more pro-slavery than you were taught and, finally, much more about maturity. that's andrew jackson, too. why would 13 -- and you know the history of the wor . . . le. . . . . . . . think a continental democracy could work? there's no model in world history. why would you think this could work? madison says and the federalist number, what is the federalist number? diversity will be good and the democracy will work better if it's modest diversity.
mad madison persuaded everyone. federalist 10, that's what we're all talk. no one reads federalist 10. no one at all. nor for the next 100 years, you read federalist 10 because there was a certain scholar who thought federalist 10 was front and center, really important. that scholar was named charles beard. okay? it's all about the class issue and religious diversity and other things. madison's federalist 10 is brilliant. i disagree respectively. i give madison tenure on the basis of federalist 10 and it's brilliant argument and precisely because of it no one pays any attention. no one understands brilliant arguments of their time. only after. if you had a good argument for why 13 separate colonies should quit one continental regimes, the likes of which you had never seen in history, would you wait until your op-ed to make that point.
listen, this is what it is just so we see clearly, it's the equivalent of today proposing world government. a real world government with a world president and a world army and a world legislature. it's that audacious. what the heck are you talking about? virginia is has been on its own from the 1620s, the house of burge burgesses, it has been a separate entity. it's connected to the other colonies loosely before 1776 in the same way 1930 has a british commonwealth of nations including canada, india, new zealand, australia, ireland, okay? a common crown but no real continental structure of any sort. now you're proposing to take these warm weather and cold weather people and create one sort of strong indivisible state. why would you do that? why the heck would you go for world government today? let